Blog
April 20th, 2015

Are my ACT scores good enough?

Students and parents ask me this all the time. My quick answer is “It depends”. Your test scores are important for getting into college and should not be underestimated. Consider the chore college admissions officers have in comparing grades from high schools nationwide or weighing the merits of one student’s participation in a band versus another student’s spot on the football team. And let’s not forget that colleges are getting thousands more applications per year due to the ease of the Common Application. The test scores alone compare students from all over the country by the same yardstick and provide an easy means for admissions officers to reduce potential applicants.

ACT-AM-I-READYThe quality of your score depends on which universities you are applying to. The more selective a university, the higher the score required to be admitted. Once you’ve begun making a list of schools you’re interested in, visit their websites or call them and ask what scores they require on the ACT. You can also check websites like College Simply. Just plug in your score, and a list of the colleges in every state for which you qualify is generated.

Two other points to keep in mind. First, many colleges superscore the ACT, meaning if you take multiple ACTs, they will combine your top scores on each of the four ACT sections to make a “superscore”.  Therefore, you should take more than one ACT, especially when research shows that students score best on a second test after prep.

A final point to keep in mind is that higher ACT scores can earn you more merit scholarship money, and with no ceiling to college costs in sight, every point you earn means less debt down the road. Besides merit money, higher ACT scores can gain you admittance into honors programs with preferential scheduling or honors dorms as perks.  Our next blog entry will explore these last points in detail.  Stay tuned.

February 17th, 2015

Make the most of your SAT/ACT prep at home

shutterstock_114474988Your parents have plunked down the money for prep; you’ve dutifully attended the sessions, and now that the first practice test is ready to be tackled, Remember that your ACT or SAT score will largely be determined by the work you do at home. Beyond conscientiously working to internalize the taught strategies and tactics and adhering strictly to time limits, what else can you do at home to maximize your prep? Try paying attention to your environment.

Study locations: If you usually complete your homework in your room, stick with it. If not, beware because no room contains more distractions. Then again, if you typically complete your homework in front of the TV, you’d better find a different location. Ideally, you want to approximate the test location as closely as possible. This means finding a location with minimal distractions. Avoid spots where people will talk to you, where there is a lot of movement, or even locations that are too quiet. The test room will be quiet but not silent.

Background noise: Research demonstrates that doing any homework with headphones on decreases retention. Yet, background noise has been found to increase students’ focus. Some studies even suggest that certain types of music – Bach, Beethoven, or flowing instrumentals – may increase intelligence and material retention.

Lighting: The test rooms will be well-lit. Turn the lights on if you are knocking those tests off in your room, or if you are in a library or cafe, sit where the lighting is good.

If you want a great score, then give every effort. Find blocks of time that will allow you to complete entire sections, review the tactics and strategies right before practicing, time yourself strictly, and avoid doing work on the bus or in front of the TV. Environment matters!

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